Monthly Archives: May 2010

Exciting News from Out in Print

Attention Please!!!!

Beginning Friday, May 14th, Jerry and Bill will be posting daily updates from the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. It will be a wonderful weekend of classes, readings and sheer authorly excitement, and we’ll be bringing it to you every day – you’ll almost be able to smell the jambalaya and book musk. Don’t miss it.

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Inheritance – Steven Reigns (Lethe Press)

Buy it now at  Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group. 

There’s no escaping the deep vein of emotions we carry from our childhood; indeed, as writers, we tap into those feelings whenever we create people and events to carry our plots forward. The happy moments are easy to relate, but it’s the slights, the injuries and the devestations that take bravery to put into words. And that makes Steven Reigns a very brave man, indeed.

Reigns’ latest book of poetry, Inheritance, is an unadorned picture of a troubled childhood made all the more powerful by his use of simple, direct language and an economy of words that draws aside the curtain of metaphor and puts these episodes into the dangerous language of reality. And I mean the reality we all remember, no matter how deeply we think we’ve buried those feelings. In all three sections of this book—“Seized & Possessed,” “Devise and Bequeath” and “Residue and Remainder”—we find poems about Reigns’ lovers, affairs and dreams, but the pieces about his family and childhood strike the hardest and leave the biggest welts.

In particular, I need to mention the one-two-three punch of “Playing With the Doll,” “Rifle” and “After the Ballgame.” In “Playing With the Doll,” Reigns observes his neighbor raping and defiling a blow-up doll and deftly, quietly compares that to his own rape at the hands of the same neighbor. “Rifle” is about his father’s attempt to turn his gay son into a ‘real man’ with a gun, but it’s “After the Ballgame” that I return to again and again.

In this poem, Reigns describes his mother’s invasion of his bathroom privacy as he was cleaning up after a baseball game just to tell him how disappointed and ashamed of him she felt.

I cannot think of ways to leave this situation.

My pants and underwear rest on my cleats

My ass dirty,

my torso naked.

“You seem to want to be a girl.

“Maybe we could go to the doctor and he could make you a girl.”               

Reigns’ shame and humiliation are palpable here. I ache for this boy and his tragic upbringing, but I’m heartened by the fact that he was able to take this degredation and build art from its ugly underpinnings. It’s that courageousness that makes gay men and women survivors, and it resonates deeply—as do many of the poems here. Reigns has crafted an unflinching look at one man’s path to dealing with a destructive childhood, and here’s hoping that reading about his steps can help others do the same.

Because that’s what art is supposed to do. .  

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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Dee Dee Day – Mykola Dementiuk (eXtasy Books)

Nothing makes me sadder than a good premise that goes unfulfilled. It smacks of wasted opportunity, misspent labor and the possibility of a great book gone out the window. And the waste is even greater when the premise deals with a subject that isn’t approached very often. That’s the case with Mykola Dementiuk’s Dee Dee Day.

Dee Dee Day is a self-described sissy – an effeminate cross-dressing gay man who beds and falls in love with Bill, a younger man who is her downstairs tenant. Bill has an attraction for this type of guy, which is alluded to in internal monologue and anecdotes about his previous boyfriend, Randy. But Dee Dee also has a past, including a boyfriend named Billy who was killed in WWII (Dee Dee is much older than Bill) and a former lover named George, a pedophile who still maintains a presence in Dee Dee’s life.

See what I mean? There’s so much potential here it’s mouth-watering. Not only could this have been a terrific love story, but it also could have been a detailed examination of why effeminate men seem to be so reviled by the majority of gay culture as well as a great character study of a man who flies in the face of that prejudice. And then there’s the relationship between Dee Dee and George, a twisted mess of complications that deserves untangling, not to mention the whole intergenerational Harold and Maude relationship between Bill and Dee Dee.

But that’s not what we get in our 126 pages on Kindle.

Dee Dee Day turns out to be a plot summary with dialogue. There is little attempt at characterization, not much description and absolutely no sense of place or time (it takes place in NYC during the 1970’s—a colorful locale and decade, again, rich with potential, but you’d never know it). By the time the book reaches its tragic end, I could have cared less and that’s not right at all, not with so many possibilities in the air.

And then there are the copy editing problems of oddly spaced lines, misspellings, sloppy punctuation and the like (“nevertheless” is all one word – not “never the less”) that jar the reader out of whatever forward momentum there is, almost as if the product was being pushed out as quickly as possible so it could be uploaded and the author could move on to the next project. Such assembly line writing serves neither the author nor the reader well, let alone what it does to a marvelous premise.

On the positive side, Dementiuk is fearless with the sex scenes and does manage to spark interest in Dee Dee Day as a character, but without some depth, some detail, some pathos, she ultimately goes nowhere. Bill, the point of view character, is so sketchy as to be nearly absent. Amazingly enough, this has two five-star and one four-star review on Amazon. And it’s only $3.19 – download it to Kindle and start reading it for yourself in five minutes if you don’t believe me. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If e-books like this are the wave of the future that will save the sinking publishing industry, just tie me to the rudder and let me go down with the print ship.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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Best Lesbian Romance 2010 – Radclyffe, ed. (Cleis Press)

Buy it now from Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

There is a fine line between romance and erotica, and it’seven finer in GLBT fiction where many stories intended as one cross into the other. The trip-line can be any number of things: word choice, a too-cavalier setup, characters who aren’t depicted with enough depth, or any number of other factors.

An anthology is an opportunity for readers to sample writers, to get a brief “bedtime” story, or the story short enough to consume in a single sitting, satisfying a taste before the rest of life must intrude.There is a danger of claiming “best” if something really much better has been seen in the genre. Some of the definition is strictly in the eye of the reader.That’s not to say that some of the more erotica stories weren’t quality, just perhaps should’ve  been slid over to Cleis’ other project, Best Lesbian Erotica.

Best of Lesbian Romance 2010, which is the latest in this annual series from Cleis Press, has many things going for it: well-known authors, several short, tight stories, and a popular editor. A number of stories, in this reviewer’s opinion, do cross the line from romance into erotica: first-time encounters that are less about courtship and romance than about steaminess between new duelists. There are some brief visits with popular novelists’ characters in short form, and some that seem to be brief looks at longer stories.

There are however, some truly romantic gems in this collection that an aficionado of the genre shouldn’t miss adding to her collection:

The romance grows slowly, encompassing much more than just the emotions between two women in Jacqueline Applebee’s “I Never Thought of Love”. The beauty of this one is the subtlety, the realization of how the relationship with Caitlin and working at all its aspects, has brought Jenny what she never thought she’d have… a family.

In the silent-support and enduring understanding romance department, it’s hard to beat Andrea Dale’s historical “Queens Up”. The setting of the American West is cleanly crafted and the time period of Westward Expansion accurate. The women, Josephine and Margaret, are depicted with the determination and intelligence to work within the “big picture” of society ‘s expectations. There’s no blow-up women’s lib single moment, so frequent in stories set in historical times, just a strong current of thinking fast on their feet that brings these women alive.

In the prove-me-wrong department, Dalia Craig’s “The Last Dance” is a first-time meeting story that brilliantly develops into one of the most enduringly romantic. Each moment of dialogue in the first meeting between Danielle and Helena shows the characters to have the stuff of great romance in the making: matching humors, intelligence, and perspective.

Authors in this collection: Evan Morra, Anna Meadows, Sommer Marsden, Cheyenne Blue, Sacchi Green, Pamela Smiley, Hannah Quinn, Erin O’Riordan, Jacqueline Applebee, Renèe Strider, Kris Adams, Andrea Dale, Nell Stark & Trinity Tam, Shannon Dargue, Dalia Craig, Radclyffe.

Reviewed by Lara Zielinsky, www.lzfiction.net

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